Kenya: Widower counsels community while looking after five children
07 March 2011

A counselling session at one of the JRS centres in Kakuma refugee camp. (Angelika Mendes/JRS)
Now I am a counsellor, working with people with disabilities and emotional distress.

Kakuma, 7 March 2011 - In May 2010 my wife passed away and left me five children, all underage. I am 64 years old and have no other person who can take care of them if today I pass away.  

I am a member of the Somali oppressed society known as the Midgan, which means “impure”.  Our people have no particular town, religion or even a small village for their own interest. We are not allowed to attend or participate in the governmental high positions, we are only allowed sweeping, shoe-making, barbering, etc. Some people only live on begging.  

We are not allowed to marry someone from the other tribes. If one of us attempts to marry one of the other people, he is shouted at or sent to jail without sentence. Our people are discriminated against and live under restrictions, and have remained in that situation for centuries in my home country Somalia. 

I came to Kakuma [refugee camp in north-west Kenya] in 2008 after working in Mogadishu. Once I was here I thought: ‘Where can I go to increase my knowledge?’ Then I heard of JRS. In August 2009 I started working with JRS. I attended training courses and worked three to four months as a volunteer. Then I was interviewed and became a staff member. Now I am a counsellor, working with people with disabilities and emotional distress.  

The work energises me, I have a keen interest and I am good at what I do. I like working with people with disabilities. I make friends with them, I drink tea with them. I work and I become free. But I can’t forget about the problem of caring for my children.